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How the loss of sports can affect your child's mental health

Posted at 10:31 AM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 12:41:01-04

This is typically one of the most exciting times of the year, with high school football getting close to kicking off the season.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 sidelined football and a bunch of other sports.

"It's a concern," says Caledonia, Michigan, clinical psychologist Dr. Nicole Beurkens, "because surveys throughout this pandemic have shown that student-athletes, in particular, are showing rates of anxiety and depression that are steadily increasing and rates of physical activity that are decreasing."

It's a combination that Dr. Beurkens says can cause some serious problems.

"People often underestimate how connected those two things are," she says, "But the research shows us over and over again that getting some form of physical movement, physical activity, or exercise in on a daily basis is critical for supporting our mental health, and that's especially true for children and for teens."

So, with many sports in a timeout, Dr. Beurkens says parents should be looking for signs of mental health issues.

"I think that if parents start to notice that their child is withdrawing more and more, not participating in things that they used to participate in, withdrawing more from the family, getting a lot more irritable, maybe feeling more anxious about things, expressing more hesitation to do things that they were comfortable doing, those are signs that anxiety or depression may be an issue."

She says keeping your kids active during this time is invaluable.

"For kids still to be involved in physical activities around weight training practice, many of the schools are working on how to safely have kids together to continue to participate in drill training, in working on things that they work during the season, even though they won't be competing. That's a great way to provide not only structure but also those relational kinds of opportunities."

And above all else, Dr. Beurkens says, keep talking.

"Open communication is one of the things that really helps kids to work through this types of challenging situations. So, talking with them about how they're feeling, about the disappointment, about the anger, or maybe frustration they may be feeling, and give them a healthy outlet about communicating about that, is important."

To contact Dr. Nicole Beurkens click here.

This story was first reported by Mike Avery at WXMI in West Michigan.